PRI 2017: L.B. Davis’ Immaculate “Rattler” 1941 Willys Gasser

Decades removed from their heyday, the famous Gassers of yesteryear still carry a certain allure with drag racing fans young and old, and that wasn’t lost on Race Star Wheels founder L.B. Davis when he set out to build a street and strip machine with a classic aura a year ago. What resulted is one of the most pristine and detailed Gassers in the country with world-class power to boot.

Davis commissioned American Gasser in Saginaw, Michigan — a chassis and fabrication shop dedicated to the building of the old-school machines — to construct his 1941 Willys known as the “Rattler” in 2016. The car uses a fiberglass reproduction version of the original Willys body made by American Gasser and sits atop their chassis, with the suspension, interior, and the brunt of the work completed in their shop. The big-block is backed by a two-speed ATI Turbo 400, with a Moser rear end housing with 4:10 gears held in place by a ladder bar rear suspension. The Willys tips the scales at 3,200 pounds.

 

Adding some unique flair to the car, Davis tabbed NHRA Pro Stock world champion and esteemed engine builder Jason Line to construct the 572 cubic-inch blown big-block Chevrolet engine at KB Racing’s facility in North Carolina that produces 1,250 horsepower to the tires. “It’s a monster,” Davis proclaims, sharing it uses an aluminum block and cylinder heads.

“I met Jason about about four year ago at a Summit event out in Nevada and he and I became friends. Last year, Jason agreed to endorse the Race Star wheel line, and I told him I was building a Gasser, and Jason loves old school power. I asked him, ‘would you be interested in building a 572 for me. If you would, we could put KB Racing on the hood and that would be so cool.’ He went back and asked the guys at the shop and agreed to do it. He actually built a sister engine to it that’s also for sale.”

Rather than electronic or mechanical fuel injection that would make it more suitable for street driving, Davis opted for a pair of Holley XP carburetors, commenting that, “it wouldn’t have had fuel injection back in the 1950s — I wanted to this to be old-school. I have a Hellcat here that has everything late-model in it you could imagine, but I wanted the to be the other end of the spectrum.”

As you see it, the Willys is nearly complete, needing only some final wiring and plumbing before it’s ready to run.

(Left) Those aren't stickers -- American Gasser hand-painted each of the sponsor logos on the car, completing one of the most detailed and immaculate cars you'll find anywhere.

Davis named the car after the classic front wheel that Race Star designed, which carries the same moniker

“The first part of this year, we plan to have the car at the Detroit Autorama and then it’ll go on the Power Tour (on display for Race Star). After that, we’ll bring it back home and race it. We’ve had a tremendous response to the car so far and a lot of people are asking where we’ll race it, but I really don’t know yet. We certainly want to get the car out there and have it seen, and it’s going to be all over the country.,” adding that he confident it should run in the low eights in the quarter-mile.

Race Star's hoops, including the "Rattler" front wheel.

 

American Gasser painted the car in-house and applied the timeless gold leaf lettering. Impressively, they also meticulously hand-painted each and every one of the contingency decals that you see on its flanks — many of them backers of the project who worked with Davis and American Gasser on supplying parts for its construction.

Davis doesn’t possess a background in Gasser’s or even in drag racing, but shares he’s simply “a car guy that loves cars,” and he’s certainly making his entrance into the sport in grand fashion, with a car that should make Gasser aficionados proud.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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